LCC’s Review of 2018

2018 is almost done and yet politics continues its fascinating, yet gruesome hold on the nation! While much of the year has been one take or another on Brexit and its ramifications, LCC has kept the flag flying for the communities of coast and country.  Working with many of you, our MPs and Peers, and a range of others who value the chance to speak for these communities that work has included:

  • Speaking engagements at CLPs across the country, including in South East Cambridgeshire and West Worcestershire.
  • Two conference fringes in Liverpool, our now annual gathering on Sunday lunchtime and a Monday lunchtime fringe to launch “Towns of England, your time has come: A Manifesto for 2019”.
  • Convening two dinners in Parliament with a range of back and front bench MPs to discuss coast and country issues, and potential solutions as part of the process of developing our ‘Manifesto for 2019‘.
  • Contributions to external research, including the Fabians ‘Labour Country: How to reconnect with Rural Communities’  report and the Labour Party Coastal Communities consultation.

Looking forward to 2019 there are the key local elections for England on May 2nd. We have already published our ‘Manifesto for 2019’ (glossy hardcopies are still available if you are interested) and that is getting good circulation with Labour frontbenchers, some of whom we will get to blog about their thoughts on it, and wider policy ambitions in the new year.

With those elections in mind, and to continue to engage members wherever they live, we are meeting and speaking at a variety of events, with the following confirmed:

  • Southend CLP | Wednesday 13th February
  • New Forest West CLP | Monday 25th February
  • ‘Winning England, how can Labour win votes in rural England’ with Stroud CLP and English Labour Network | Saturday 16th March

We’d be delighted to hear from you – info@labourcoastandcountry.org – if you’d like an LCC speaker at your CLP next year.

With best wishes for 2019,

The Labour: Coast & Country Team

Advertisements

A Manifesto for 2019 | Towns of England, your time has come!

Britain’s towns had a higher profile at Labour Conference 2018 than they have ever had.  In addition to both Labour: COAST&COUNTRY (LCC) fringes, they were on the agenda of a Fabian fringe, a CPRE/Hastoe event, as well as other sessions where Lisa Nandy MP among others had an opportunity to speak up for towns everywhere.  And then post conference Labour’s party political broadcast jointed the party and spoke up for ‘your town’.

The local elections of 2019 offer Labour a real chance to land some of this understanding, as that election is almost exclusively being held at the district council tier, the councils that service many of the towns we are seeking to win.

LCC has always campaigned for the district and country council elections to have a bespoke national agenda that properly spoke to those places, and wasn’t a re-tread of a general election or urban take on life.  As one speaker at our fringes said “these elections aren’t about saving the NHS!!”.  No indeed, they are about the issues of rural and coastal communities who are less access to services than their urban friends, that have fewer choices of secondary education or primary care services, who see austerity making their town or village suffer, dis-connecting them with the almost abolition of bus services, and leaving them a dumping ground for the 1,000 new home estate.

With the ‘your town’ PPB we can see the powers that be are getting it; to help them set the right tone for Labour’s campaigning in 2019 at conference we launched ‘A Manifesto for 2019’  Please read or download it here; share it widely with your CLP, your district council candidates, and of course send us and the shadow front bench your thoughts on it!

A Rural Manifesto for 2015: further calls.

In considering the particular needs of rural communities and individuals, the Labour Party must appreciate that these are as much in and of the mainstream as city-dwellers. We share the same concerns for the big issues of the national economy, defence, jobs, immigration etc. A Rural Manifesto focused solely on our special issues would be incomplete.

Having said that, our particular needs are unquestionably points of difference which should be addressed. To ignore rural and minority Labour clusters is to fail the notion of One Nation. It may seem to our metropolitan policy-makers that these minorities should not drive policy but I would argue that the issues which Labour should prioritise are highlighted by the rural reality. In leafy, green parts of England and Wales as well as much to envy there is much to improve. Isolation and higher living costs contribute to making rural life hard for many who live here.

Isolation – or obstacles to access to essentials – is occasioned by living in small communities lacking services. In towns and cities most facilities and services are to hand round the corner. In the country these may be several miles away, with no public transport links. Overcoming distance requires transport, with accompanying costs. This factor alone means that essentials like healthcare, food, education and energy are far more expensive for the rural householder than the urban. Add to this Council Tax at levels not merited by services provided – in essence subsidising urban services; and being deprived of the same level of broadband speed available to others, and isolation and cost of living can be seen to be issues of even greater impact in the country than the city.

“Move to the town, then” may be your response. Does this make sense for the country or the individual? Depopulation of villages to impose greater burdens on towns already lacking housing and school capacity will only serve to remove a workforce needed for those aspects of rural economy which can only be practiced in the countryside: agriculture, horticulture, arboriculture; let alone the workers who keep the assets of the wealthy going. And to what employment can they go if they seek affordable homes in towns because none are left in the countryside?

Affordable homes, transport, digital connection and energy for all must include rural dwellers. Without these being part of Labour thinking and action, this will continue to become 2 nations – rich and poor, divided further between the haves in cities and have-nots in the country; and Labour will fail to win the support of millions of voters living in the countryside.

Tom Serpall is a Labour Member from Wealden CLP
Twitter: @UckfieldLabour

Seaside Towns: What Matters to Coastal Communities and Economies

Our seaside towns and resorts hold a special place in our history and culture. For decades, British seaside towns have attracted millions of visitors – both domestic and international – all wanting to experience life and leisure by the coast. But these towns, that were once such a significant part of our culture and society, and still can be, have been neglected and according to a recent report, are now among some of the most deprived areas in the UK.

Seaside towns face unique and complex challenges; high unemployment, poor quality housing and underdeveloped transport infrastructure – challenges that require a tailored response. But since 2010, the Tory-led government has abolished the Future Jobs Fund, the Sea Change Programme and the Coastal Change Pathfinder Scheme – leaving Britain’s seaside towns to fend for themselves. In response to the decline of our British seaside towns and resorts, Labour are launching Seaside Towns: What matters to coastal communities and economies, which details examples of how Labour Councils are rebuilding and reenergising seaside towns across the country.

In Parliament, we have been working across the Shadow Cabinet team to develop a strategy that addresses the problems faced by those in coastal communities. The challenges are wide-ranging and varied, but by taking a cross departmental approach and by working with our partners in local government and local communities, we plan to maximise the potential of our seaside towns through innovative and community-influenced means.

Tourism is the fifth largest industry in the UK, providing 9% of jobs and supporting 249,000 businesses. However, whilst tourism has been the staple industry in seaside towns, they can no longer rely on ‘buckets and spades tourism’ alone. Seaside towns are still in a prime position to benefit from the “staycation”, but there are many alternative ways to boost local economies that are now available. Tourism still has an important role to play in the success of our seaside towns, and improvements to marketing and transport infrastructure will help secure a bright future, but the need to diversify is greater than ever.

That is why our document is not focused on tourism alone, but on growth, entrepreneurialism and jobs too. There are numerous opportunities for economic regeneration in low carbon industries and creative business, which can be drivers for growth in local economies and providing jobs in communities. The Labour run Redcar and Cleveland Council has already enjoyed great success in this area, where the Palace Hub has created 60 jobs and is supporting 150 local businesses. If innovative opportunities like these are seized upon and supported, other common problems such as unemployment and underemployment, which have long been issues in coastal communities, can be tackled.

Culture can play an important role in reenergising coastal resorts too. The “Vital Spark” strategy – a scheme run by Labour-led Plymouth Council – has put cultural regeneration at the heart of the city’s economic development programme, stimulating sustainable growth in the region. This is just one example of how cooperation between local government, local business and organisations such as the Arts Council, can ensure that culture is a real force for regeneration.

Geographically, seaside resorts find themselves at the ‘end of the line’. As such, access to these locations is limited. In response, we want to see our seaside towns become more accessible. Schemes like the ‘Blackpool Bus Strategy’, which is the result of improvements to transport infrastructure in Blackpool, is just one of the ways in which Labour-led councils have been improving access to and within coastal communities.

Central to the need for greater connectivity is the need for universal broadband in coastal areas. High speed broadband is essential to any modern day business, yet the Government’s failure to meet its target on the roll out of broadband across the UK threatens to inhibit business potential in coastal communities.

Our seaside towns have an illustrious history, but in order to secure their future, the Government must act now; the success of our seaside towns should not be restricted to the past. Too little is being done to support coastal communities and as a result, this Government is failing our seaside towns. Seaside Towns: What matters to coastal communities and economies identifies what can be achieved if these unique locations are supported by the right policies. It is time to remove the dark clouds that have hung over our seaside towns for far too long and support them in building a bright, prosperous and sustainable future.

Dan Jarvis is MP for Barnsley Central and a Shadow DCMS Minister

This post first appeared on LabourList.